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Building a Tourist Community Website With WordPress: Navigation and Usability Rules

By Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize

Fishing on the great lakes around Bariloche, ArgentinaIn Building a Tourist Community Website With WordPress: Content Rules, I described how our new tourist community website, Baripedia, has made the decision to hire a writing professional to rewrite and edit all the content on our site to make it professional, web-friendly, SEO-friendly, and easy to read. My decisions have been greatly influenced by your input in the first posts on this series on building a tourist community website.

The website is building great content even as I write this, but now I have to learn more about how my competition works, and what is and is not working for them on their sites so I can make my community tourist website even better.

I told you that I searched Google for “The west coast of Rhodes” to see what came up as an example of my competition in that part of the world’s tourist business. The first result I got is Discover Rhodes – The West Coast of Rhodes.

Let’s look at the site’s URL to understand how this site turned up at the top of the list:

http://www.discover-rhodes.com/explore/resorts/the-west-coast-of-rhodes/

The URL matched the keyword search phrase I used, but it also uses “subdirectories” or “folders” with appropriate keywords. Most people searching for the “West Coast of Rhodes” are often looking for tourist destinations, so this is an appropriate match and a good example of how to insert additional keywords into a website address to catch more attention from searchers.

However, there was something missing that really bothered me as I looked at their web page. I had no idea where I was in the website.

Let me explain more.

  • If I click on ‘Home’, there’s no telling how I should go back to that page. What does “home” really mean, any way?
  • What if I want more information? It’s almost impossible to find the parent category in order for me to search for relevant things. I find no relevant links to help me find related content.

Like everyone else publishing on the web, I’m counting on Google to send traffic to Baripedia. Then what? While getting the link address stuffed with keywords that should help navigation, does it really help anything? How many people even pay attention to website addresses any more? Some even have the address bar turned off in their web browsers. So how do I help people figure out where they are and how to find information across the site, not just on the page they land on?

Making my site usable and functional was now my next priority.

What Happens Once Traffic Arrives at My Blog?

While my well-written content may drive traffic my way, how do I need to convert this traffic into visitors, vacationing and paying customers for the businesses on this blog? Without considering the conversion aspect, the financial future of this project would be very grim.

I’ve had to consider how people use tourist sites and blogs for functionality, usability, navigation, and conversion.

When visitors arrive at a “tourist information” page, navigation is a key element. It must be crystal clear:

  • What this site is about.
  • Where they are within the site’s content and navigation.
  • How to find complementary and related information, like places to eat and sleep near their destination, additional things to do and see, weather, appropriate clothing or cultural information, etc.
  • How to move them to notice nearby attractions or services to expand their interest, i.e., click around the site.

Good navigation addresses most of these issues, so I need to explore how best to get this information across and help them use the site better. Every page should provide a clear resource for all the information they may need, including the clear path all the way from the home page to here.

For “The West Coast of Rhodes”, the trail navigation, which shows where that page is located in the website, could be:

Home > Regions > The West Coast of Rhodes

On that page, in a very prominent location, should be navigation to attractions in this area, like:

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Activities
  • Festivals

It could also include links to other regions on the island, providing more related interest and information.

If Baripedia is to have the vast amount of content I’m counting on, all this must be automatically generated. A human editor, as smart and diligent as she may be, cannot manage this kind of bookkeeping. It takes code. Navigation and breadcrumb following code.

There are a variety of WordPress Plugins to help breadcrumb navigation, but I want more out of my navigation for this site.

For Baripedia, I’m planning on writing some navigation constructing WordPress Plugins to create trail navigation and side menus automatically for every page and post that meet our needs.

Improving Navigation with WordPress Plugins

Baripedia drop down menusI want to make Baripedia have an agile navigational structure, which creates another big challenge for developing the site. I’m going to need to figure out how it works, how I want it to work, and then devise a Plugin and CSS styles and web design elements to implement the desired effect, helping visitors move around my site and find the information they need to decide to visit Bariloche.

The first step is improving overall navigation with a method that showcases all of our information on the site in a simple and easy-to-use way. We decided to use a drop down menu for our key post categories, grouping related content together and offering a clean way for people to look at all the offerings under each category and quickly click to visit that blog post.

We also added related content within that category to the left side of the blog post, offering another visual and easy-to-use navigation option. This encourages visitors to find out more information related to what they are reading on the page. It also cross-connects the various tourist services, businesses, and adventures.

But we wanted more for Baripedia. A way to help people really know where they are in relationship to the rest of the content related to their interest.

Let’s say we decided that “The west coast of Rhodes” needs to relocate (for its own good, of course). We’ll put it here:

Home -> Beaches -> West Coast

We’ll change the category, post title, and post slug to produce a shorter description and a matching URL. I know that I could have kept the post slug unchanged and avoid all the problems to come, but imagine for a second that I’m not a WordPress guru (which I’m really not). I’m the editor of Baripedia, who’s great at writing and assumes the system doesn’t break up when I do things that it lets me do.

Voila! All links pointing to that page from anywhere in my site now proudly display my well designed “Page not found”.

Imagine how you’d feel if your car’s engine stopped every time you used the rear wipers while making a left turn. It’s something you don’t do every time you drive but it happens. You don’t expect such a response from the very system which lets you do it.

Breadcrumb navigation feature in Baripedia WordPress blogWe’re going to write a WordPress Plugin that makes sure Baripedia doesn’t break up every time URLs change. This plugin will replace public URLs with internal page IDs (just like the original default URLs), similar to what WordPress does with its canonical redirects now, but differently. When rendering, it will replace those internal page IDs back to the current permalinks. This will make the entire site completely indifferent to the URL scheme that we choose and to page hierarchy.

Is this something you would use? Does it make sense to you?

Stay tuned for more news on how this breadcrumb navigation and redirection WordPress Plugin develops.

In the next article in this series on building a tourist community blog, I’m facing another serious challenge that many sites, including tourist-related sites, have to deal with: offering content in different languages. Luckily, I have a translation ace up my sleeve.

By Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize and Baripedia
Helzer is the founder of ICanLocalize, a human translation service for websites and publishers, developer of Baripedia, a community tourist website and WordPress blog for Bariloche, Argentina, and a web developer.

Articles in the Building a Tourist Community Website with WordPress Series

6 Comments

  1. Posted December 19, 2008 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    An easy way to deal with URLs changing (while preventing links and such from breaking) is to use Redirection.

    I’ve been using it on mine for a couple of months now and, next to WP Super Cache, it’s probably the most powerful tool in my WP arsenal.

    Been following your site since it was first mentioned here, Amir. Glad it’s coming together so well for you :-) Do you intend to provide translated versions of Baripedia? I know it’s a lot of content on there and can be a pain, but for a tourism site, it wouldn’t be very helpful to the English-only part of the world.

  2. Posted December 19, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Next on my todo list is translating Baripedia translated to English and Portuguese. Then, we’ll see which European languages to add next.

    For this, I’ll be using WPMU and map different language versions to different blogs, so we’ll have paripedia.com, paripedia.com/en and paripedia.com/br. Each version will run as an independent blog and our ICanLocalize Translator WordPress Plugin.

  3. bentrem
    Posted December 20, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Very nice … I like the way you write.

    Yes … yes and yes.
    I look forward to following your series.

    best of the season to you.

    ben

  4. Posted May 26, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    wow cool, initially because i am about to start my own tourism site, your blog helped me through it though honestly saying i need to give it a second read, i was thinking about starting my site and suddenly i found your article so was too happy to give it a serious read..hehe
    and i think i might ask you about a thing or too in future if i am all set with my plans for website as it provides too much info about things and damn i am a newcomer to these blogging and website things.
    i am writing a blog about the literary work i do,
    the next website is another passion about travel and tourism that i want to add in my list of works.

    and thanks again, for coming up with this blog ,it’s so cool

    • Posted May 26, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      If you have some questions, please ask, as this is what this site is all about, helping you have your say on the web with WordPress.

    • sahil khanna
      Posted May 27, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink

      ya sure will ask , but first i would like to put all the pieces together and then when will face a problem, i know i have a place to come. :)


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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